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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
Cooper: The making of a service dog is a nonfiction memoir written by Clyde Hoch. Hoch was a tank commander in Vietnam in the late sixties, a time when that conflict was at its peak. He was hospitalized when the tank he was riding in hit a landmine. Having his superiors blame him for the incident made it even more upsetting. He came home from Vietnam feeling angry about the incident and the shoddy reception he and other Vietnam vets were receiving and had problems reintegrating into society. He couldn’t find a job and had trouble dealing with crowds and loud noises. When he did find work, interpersonal relations on the job were challenging. Hoch had trouble accepting himself. “I thought I was one of the most screwed-up people ever.”
His first reaction on reading about PTSD was that he could “grow up and get over it.” Then, as he learned more about the symptoms shared by many vets, he began to accept the situation and the idea of a service dog. Hoch wanted the experience of training his service dog himself. When he began seriously considering it, he decided to go with his long-held admiration for Doberman Pinschers, and he found a breeder close enough to deal with. He also located Tails of Valor, an organization that works with shelter puppies and was willing to work with him and his new pup.
Cooper is a well-written and informative look at the process of training a service dog. Hoch’s work with his best friend, Cooper, starts from the time he brings that puppy into his life and it’s marvelous to see how well the two of them become a committed and enduring team. The photographs he includes in his memoir are outstanding, and watching as Cooper grows from a six-week-old pup into a strong and muscular two-year-old is a marvelous experience. I loved learning about the work that goes into training a service dog and found this account moving and powerful. Cooper is most highly recommended.